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Friends of the Earth Ireland calls on Enda Kenny to respect Seanad vote on trade deal

10 Oct 2016

Friends of the Earth Ireland calls on Enda Kenny to respect Seanad vote on trade deal

Seanad urges Government to oppose implementation of CETA until parliamentary scrutiny and ratification is complete.

Yesterday, the Seanad approved a motion calling on the Irish government to reject provisional application of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and Europe. The historic motion makes the Irish Parliment the first in the world to take a vote on CETA. Independent senator Alice Mary Higgins proposed the motion, which passed by one vote, having garnered the support of The Civil Engagement Group, Labour, Sinn Féin, and Green Parties, thus rejecting the position Fine-Gael led government.

The motion passed due to the abstention of the main opposition party Fianna Fáil. At the beginning of the October 5th debate, it appeared as if Fianna Fáil would support Fine Gael and reject the motion. However, impassioned and staunch senators won over Fianna Fáil with the moral weight of their arguments, offering numerous examples of how CETA would negatively impact Irish citizens and the environment.

On the eve of the debate, Friends of the Earth Ireland Chairperson, Dr. Cara Augustenborg briefed senators on how CETA would affect the environment:

“CETA is a global trade agreement designed to advance a corporate agenda above the rights of citizens or consumers. Whereas investors have a legally enforceable global mechanism to sue governments for lost profits through CETA, both the environmental and labour rights are exempt from sanctions. As a result, if our government wants to improve measures to protect public health, environment or public goods, we’re prohibited by potential legal action from corporations arguing such measures will negatively impact their expected profits. CETA will curtail our efforts to reduce fossil fuel use, increase community-owned power and transition to a low carbon society by providing a mechanism for corporations to block this urgently needed transition. Those who support CETA are not working on behalf of the people of Ireland but rather to fill the pockets of corporations.”

At lunchtime on the day of the debate, Young Friends of the Earth, The Comlámh Trade Justice Group and members of the public demonstrated outside Leinster House, providing information on CETA to passers-by and engaging with a number of TDs and senators including Catherine Murphy, Maureen O’Sullivan, Thomas Pringle and Séamus Healy. Senator Higgins and Senator Grace O’Sullivan also came to show their thanks for the efforts of the concerned citizens.

Meaghan Carmody, Activism & Education Manager at Friends of the Earth Ireland said: “The ‘new-generation’ of free trade deals are simply not about trade. The purpose of deals like CETA and TTIP is to remove and dilute legislation and regulations that were put in place to protect people and the planet - all for the sake of increasing corporate profits. Under NAFTA, the US is currently being sued $15bn dollars by TransCanada for stopping the Keystone XL oil pipeline. This climate-protecting move by Obama was seen as impinging on TransCanada’s ’expected profits’. This is exactly the type of scenario we can expect if we allow CETA to be signed into force. The news that the Seanad has rejected provisional application is a timely signal to the Irish government that there is fierce opposition to CETA in Ireland and they need to remember this at the all-important meeting of the Council of Ministers on October 18th.”

Friends of the Earth Ireland now calls on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to respect the Seanad’s CETA motion and for the government to reject provisional application of CETA at the European Council’s vote on October 18th to give Ireland time for informed public and political debate on CETA.

ENDS

Contact:

  • Dr. Cara Augustenborg, Friends of the Earth Chairperson: cara@foe.ie 
  • Ms. Meaghan Carmody, Friends of the Earth Activism and Education Manager: meaghan@foe.ie

 Notes:

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